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Council leaders voice concern over Newsquest job cuts

stephen-alambritisA group of councils in South London has voiced concern over job cuts affecting Newsquest-owned newspapers in the area.

As previously reported on HTFP, Newsquest is looking to cut 11 jobs across the South London division, with all but two of the 29-strong newsroom now on notice of redundancy.

National Union of Journalists members at the have voted to take strike action over the plans, which Newsquest says are necessary to ensure the titles have a “sustainable cost base.”

Titles affected include the Guardian series which circulates in Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon, the News Shopper series in South East London, the Richmond & Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet.

Now Merton council leader Stephen Alambritis, pictured, has written to Newsquest South London managing director Tony Portelli, saying the plans risk “eroding” local news reporting in the area.

Coun Alambritis, pictured, heads the cross-party South London Partnership made up of Merton, Kingston upon Thames, Sutton and Richmond upon Thames councils.

He said: “It is essential that Newsquest has the capacity to report professionally, to provide the high-quality journalism residents in our boroughs expect.

“As leaders of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat councils, we all share a common commitment to transparency and openness. The role of the local press in providing independent reporting and challenge on our councils and other public bodies locally is vital to this.”

“It is incredibly important to have a strong local press not only to provide the area with the vital information it needs, but to hold politicians like myself to account.

“I would urge Newsquest to desist from its current course and enter into urgent negotiations with National Union of Journalist representatives to save local news.”

A Newsquest spokesman said: “We remain fully committed to our free newspaper portfolio in South London, but it needs to have a cost base that is sustainable.

“Clearly it is regrettable that this restructuring puts a number of roles at risk of redundancy, but we are doing this to ensure that the South London business has a credible future.”